'Au Contraire Film Festival' counters stigma around mental illness

As Mental Awareness Week begins on Sunday, a day later will mark the kickoff of the Au Contraire Film Festival, which strives to erase the stigma surrounding mental illness.

Among the films slated to be shown in this year's edition, the festival's eighth, are 'Unstuck,' which chronicles 10-year-old Vanessa's struggle with obsessive compulsive disorder.

The Au Contraire Film Festival's lineup includes 19 other international films, dealing with issues such as addiction, depression and suicidal thoughts. The festival will be held entirely online this year.

“Art is a great way to express things that are hard to express only with words,” said artist, mental health advocate and Au Contraire spokesperson Florence K. “The emotions and feeling can really transmit well through the screen.”

Founder Philip Silverberg said the films can help audiences realize that those with mental health issues aren't defined by them.

“Nobody goes around saying 'You're a diabetic,' but they say 'You're a schizophrenic,'” he said. “Nobody says 'You're cancer.' Mental illness is an illness.”

“The chronic, persistent mental illness issues have crept a little bit more into the public forefront and that's was always where we centred. Schizophrenia, bi-polar, various degrees of that and certainly depression.”

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